VA Bureaucrats in New Jersey Skirt Rules that Govern Purchase Cards
A criminal investigation of a contractor who received money via a purchase card used by a bureaucrat in the Engineering Service of the VA New Jersey Health Care System (VANJHCS) prompted the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to review the possibility that VANJHCS bureaucrats used split purchasing to skirt the rules that govern purchase cards.
The VA has a Purchase Card Program that provides cards to bureaucrats to use for the “acquisition of supplies and services that VA makes using simplified acquisition procedures under the micro-purchasing threshold.” The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) defines a micro-purchase as an “acquisition of supplies using simplified acquisition procedures, where the aggregate amount does not exceed $3,000.” The $3,000 maximum on purchase card transactions is supposed to prevent VA bureaucrats from avoiding the requirement to obtain competitive bids for purchases over the $3,000 threshold and avoid established limits on purchases. The attempt to prevent VA bureaucrats from abusing the purchase cards and defrauding taxpayers was a miserable failure.
How do you suppose one would go about avoiding the $3,000 limit on a single purchase card transaction? The VA bureaucrats skirted the rules that govern purchase cards using split purchases. Those honest stewards of your tax dollars opted to increase the number of purchase card transactions to deliver the required amount of money necessary to obtain whatever product or service he/she deemed necessary to deliver medical care to America’s veterans. Split purchasing was used to circumvent the $3,000 limit on purchase card transactions.
The OIG reviewed 76 acquisitions made by 19 bureaucrats working in 6 different areas of the VANJHCS. The OIG discovered that 64 of the acquisitions were completed using split purchasing to avoid the limitation on transactions. The OIG concluded based on the results of this sample that “VANJHCS staff inappropriately made about 4,750 split purchases totaling approximately $8.9 million from December 2012 through May 2014.” Federal government bureaucrats show an amazing proclivity for spending your tax dollars.
The OIG could not determine whether the VANJHCS received the goods and services purchased using the split purchase method. The OIG did conclude that split purchasing took place due to a blatant disregard by VANJHCS staff for internal controls, and the complicity of VANJHCS management due to their unwillingness to provide effective oversight of the Purchase Care Program, including holding purchase cardholders, their supervisors, and the personnel who approve purchases accountable for policy violations. Bureaucrats inside the VANJHCS skirted the rules that govern purchase cards to the obscene sum of $8.9 million in taxpayer money, which should prompt a complete overhaul or termination of the Purchase Card program, but it did neither.
The OIG’s recommendations for the VANJHCS did not include anything that would compel the bureaucrats to adhere to existing policies and procedures, such as the termination of the offenders, nor did it call for the cessation of the Purchase Card Program. The OIG recommended annual audits and reviews of purchase card transactions and taking “corrective action for all identified inappropriate transactions. The OIG’s recommendations will not deter the VANJHCS bureaucrats in the least.